A group calling itself ‘The Minden Position Paper Team’ has asked to meet with Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) interim CAO and president Veronica Nelson prior to June 22’s HHHS annual general meeting.

Team member, Jeff Nicholls, said they comprise community advocates, health care professionals, and stakeholders, including Debbie Sherwin, who are all, “deeply concerned about the sudden closure of the Minden ER.” He said there is a core team of six people, supported by a research group of five to 15 people.

“The group has conducted rigorous research into the impacts and decision-making process behind the closure, culminating in a comprehensive position paper, which has been posted at mindenpaper.com as a call for comment.”

Part of that, Nicholls said, is a money trail in which MPP Laurie Scott says the Minden ER closure was due to staffing issues, while HHHS finance chair Irene Odell has reported to meetings that HHHS’ deficit of more than $3 million was a stressor for the corporation.

In an interview, Nicholls said between December 2022 and April 20, 2023, when the closure was announced, something changed.

“What happened between the board saying no closure was possible to a permanent closure? As far as we can tell, HHHS ran out of money and staff. That’s the working theory.”

While Nicholls said Nelson had not responded to the team’s request to meet, the “real hope” is to begin a dialogue between her and “a group of people that have done a lot of research on the decision and on its impacts…and have a conversation in the interests of health care in the region. It’s kind of twofold. There’s a bit of a retrospective, but also what’s to come moving forward because it’s critical our County gets the health care that we need.”

Nicholls said they also want to educate the public about board governance, particularly around health care planning and provision, “because the more people understand how these decisions are made, the better questions they can ask.”

The spokesman added it’s also about focusing on something positive and constructive coming out of the Minden ER closure.

“How do we take something like this and turn it into something positive in a way for our community to grow? I think our community has grown stronger in many ways. But I think in terms of the next phase or phases of advocacy, it’s super critical to raise the community level of understanding of these issues.”

Nicholls added they are keeping an eye on the performance of the consolidated Haliburton ER site and plan to add a case study to their paper in future.